Sometimes the hardest thing about writing is sitting down to do it. We love talking about being writers, brainstorming what to write and even doing causal research.
But when you’re staring down a blank screen broken only by a menacing blinking cursor — it can be tough.
You’re not alone.
We all have bouts of procrastination. And, if you don’t have a deadline looming or bills to pay with money earned from writing, it can be even more difficult to put pen to paper.
Or, fingers to keyboard.
Thankfully, writers are a friendly, helpful bunch. I reached out to my colleagues and friends and asked what helps them focus on their work and stay disciplined. Here are some tips!
“I’d say the best way to stay focused is to have a plan! Have a plan for your content in general (eg. an editorial calendar and a clear idea of who you’re writing for) and have a plan for each piece of writing (eg. a blocked-out structure). It’s so much easier to fill in the gaps once you’ve got some parameters!”
~ Kate McMahon, writer/editor/online marketer
“Brainstorm in an inspiring environment – out in the park, at the beach, at a cafe. Switch off social media notifications for a set amount of time throughout the day. Allow yourself time to check in at lunchtime as a reward! Set a time (I use e.ggtimer.com) and decide your task will be completed in this amount of time. It gives me a bit of a buzz to have something to work towards and gets my creative juices flowing quicker. Take a break – eat, walk, check social media, read a chapter of a book – set yourself allotted time to switch off!
~ Sophie French, freelance copywriter
“Clutter and disorganization in your workspace can negatively affect your productivity, efficiency and mood. An inability to find items or locate paperwork can lead to missed deadlines and add to stress levels, affecting not only your work product, your colleagues’ opinions of you and your job security. I believe the short time taken out in a work day to organize your work station can lead to saved time, lower stress levels and greater productivity.”
~ Ali Cavill, health/wellness author
“I have a chalk board positioned right next to my laptop. On it, I write a message that I can look to any time my attention or motivation for what I’m doing wavers. Usually, it’s a quote. At the moment, I have: “I can and I will”.”
~ Sarah Cannata, freelance writer
“When I start to fade, I take a virtual water cooler break. I go to one of my business networking Facebook groups and either read comments that inspire me, and if I don’t find any, then I write something myself. The interaction that follows typically has me feel connected and gets me back into my writing.”
~Susan Tabor-Kleiman, business writer
“Write all ideas down and draw out an outline. This will enable you to come back to it later, know what the idea was about and start writing. Otherwise you will be struggling to remember why you wrote it down and drive yourself crazy trying to match the note to the idea.”
~ Colin Myles, author
“My advice for staying focused is to remember your ‘why’. Remember why you’re writing in the first place. You have to take time out for yourself to do what’s important to you. If getting your book done or whatever you’re working on is important, you have to put in the time and energy. It helps to carve out a specific time that you dedicate just to work on your project. Also have a designated place where you’ll be uninterrupted. Visualize the end result. Get to work!”
~Desh Dixon, author & poet
“Just start writing. Do not let your mind get in the way. Focus on the words and your fingers on the keyboard. Editing and formatting come later. Right now, you just need to do a brain dump of everything you want to share with your reader.
So go ahead and do a big dump. Get everything out as quickly as you can and then you can start the task of re-organizing, editing, and formatting. The slower you write, the more time there is for the monkey on your shoulder to whisper in your ear and fill you head with self-doubt and before you know it, you’ll be second guessing yourself. Leave your conscious critical mind out of the first draft!”
~Ayesha Hilton, author
Thanks, everyone for your insider tips and ideas — from writers, for writers!
Finally, I’d like to offer a closing thought from my own desk. I find that creating and maintaining a routine is what keeps me focused and getting working done. I use Google Calendar to schedule my days and I stick to it faithfully. If I don’t write five to six days a week, I fall out of the groove! Consistency equals productivity and long-term focus on your writing. Click here and I’ll email you my free e-book, “18 Ways to Increase Online Writing Productivity and Earnings”.
So, do you have a favorite trick or tip for getting work done? Tell the world in the comments below how you get focused and stay disciplined!